Can A Water Smart Grid Help Society Achieve The Sustainable Development Goal Of Water As A Human Right?

In the spirit of measuring what we care about, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide guidelines to measure “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.” In this work, I show where permanent or semi-permanent, autonomous or semi-autonomous technologies (objects not processes) can measure and induce progress towards those goals and where they cannot. To do this, I apply the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework to each of the seven normative definitions from the SDGs as “action arenas”. For each normative definition, I examine if technologies exist or can be created to affect a positive outcome for consumers in that particular action arena using nine evaluative criteria. This analysis is applied to the United States as a case study considering its physical systems, regulations, and governance structures. This work, combined with efforts to translate the United States’ systems and structures, can lead to multinational applicability. The theme of this work is expounding the idea of a water smart grid to where it can and cannot be used effectively. I conclude that the material artifacts of a water smart grid can advance the SDG of safety and affordability. However, technology alone cannot assign people to jurisdictions limiting its ability to advance goals of universal and equitable access.

We are currently working on this project. Inspired by an Urban Planning Professor to study how technology will impact society not simply what the space was full of, this was submitted for peer review May 2017. It was presented to the ASCE EWRI World Environmental & Water Resource Congress 2017 and to MIT Water Night 2017